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White Mountain Community Health Center Provides A Health Safety Net

By S. Mathur

As debates around access to healthcare roil the national political scene, one community health center offers a health safety net for all. According to the mission statement of the White Mountain Community Health Center, it provides comprehensive, high-quality primary care services and health education on a sustainable basis to women, men and children in the Mount Washington Valley community regardless of ability to pay.

In practice this means that the center is one place where people can get the care they need. No one is ever denied treatment, even if they are unable to pay, says Executive Assistant Siena Kaplan-Thompson. Payments can be made on a sliding scale adjusted to means, but no one is ever refused treatment. Many patients have insurance but choose to come to the center because they like the friendly atmosphere.

The guiding philosophy of the the center recognizes the importance of healthcare for individuals as well as the life of the community.

"Our health affects so many parts of our lives, from our individual happiness and sense of security to our ability to be a productive member of society," Kaplan-Thompson said. "We are well-equipped to serve people who might have complicated situations that could affect their health. Our providers look out for patients who don't have enough to eat, can't heat their houses, have substance abuse or mental health issues, are in dangerous family situations, and other things that fall a little beyond the realm of primary care."

The staff can connect patients to resources for meeting their medical and other needs. As well as providing medical care, the center has social workers who can help patients. In house programs include a volunteer-staffed food pantry and a mental health counselor. A health insurance navigator helps uninsured patients to find affordable coverage, and a transportation fund makes gas cards available to patients, to make it possible for them to travel to the center for treatment.

The center came into existence in 1993 through the merger of two different facilities focused on health issues for women and children and youth. It now offers primary care for men, women and children as well as all-inclusive prenatal care. The center also provides full dental care for children and dental hygiene for adults, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, and DOT physicals. Programs like a walk-in Teen Clinic on Thursday afternoons, and Partners in Health, for children with chronic illness and their families support specific populations.

Preventative health care and health education are two major priorities for the center, which serves over 3,000 patients in northern Carroll County and Western Maine.

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